Shoestring Travels: Paris


Shoestring Travels: Paris


What is budget travel?

Ever thought about going to Paris but found that it was just too expensive? Well here’s how to do it on a budget (spend as little money as possible while exploring the iconic sights of Paris). Holidays are one of the only times you don’t have to worry about school/your job and other stressful things. Some people miss out on them, though, because they think that they can’t afford them but holidays don’t have to cost a lot.

There are many tourist attractions that are free to visit. In fact often the cheaper attractions are more cultural because they are less commercialised.  When you go on a budget trip you may come across things that aren’t excellent – usually because budget businesses are trying to keep their ticket prices low. However, this doesn’t mean every budget-friendly attraction isn’t of good value. In fact many museums and galleries are free so everyone can go to them. This means it is possible to have a cultural budget-friendly trip.

This article will help you if:

  • You can’t afford to go on an expensive holiday.
  • You want to go on holiday but you don’t want to spend a lot of money.
  • You want to see if you can manage the challenge of going on a budget-holiday.
  • You want to do some research on the topic.


Why did I go to Paris?

Here is Ribh looking très chic beside the Eiffel Tower
Here is Ribh looking très chic beside the Eiffel Tower

I have only been to Paris once. I chose to go because  in my family we have a tradition that when you turn thirteen you get to choose to do something big and exciting to celebrate becoming a teenager. This tradition allowed us to celebrate our birthdays by doing something that we dreamed of doing and it helped us develop our independence, confidence and researching and planning skills as we had to organise the whole trip ourselves. This is an excellent idea as it is a great way of getting someone ready for their teenage years and even helping them prepare for the rest of their life. I decided to go to Paris with my mum for my thirteenth birthday celebration for a lot of reasons but these are the main ones:

  • The song ‘Our Last Summer’ by ABBA (I was obsessed with ABBA when I was twelve and I wanted to go to Paris to experience the things in the song).
  • I read the book ‘Bridesmaid Blitz’ by Sarah Webb (I wanted to see the things that were mentioned in the book).
  • I had heard from various sources that Paris was a wonderful place to go.
  • I wanted to go somewhere that had a different language and culture from the one that I was used to as I find learning about different cultures and languages very interesting. I wanted to go to France as at school we only get taught French until fourth year and I wanted to go somewhere that I knew some of the language of before I went to it (I loved how when we were in Paris I did get to put what I knew of the language into practise).

In this article I will tell you more about my trip to inspire your own Parisian trip.


Your trip’s budget

Before any trip you go on you need to set the trip’s budget but on a budget trip it is doubly important to do so as you need to make sure that you make the most of your money and you need to make sure that you can afford to go. When you are setting your budget you cannot make it incredibly low. It has to be realistic as things still cost money- no matter how much you don’t want them to.

When deciding on your budget you need to consider everything you will spend money on during your trip. This will mean you will have to do a lot of research but the researching process can be fun and exciting. On a budget holiday you may need to make sacrifices but your holiday will still be wonderful- it’s all in the planning.


What to include in your budget

I am the type of person who likes everything to be laid out into a neat and organised list so that I know what needs to be done. I find it an easier and clearer way of doing things. I have done the same for you here so hopefully it will help you if you are like me or if you just like a list.


The List:

  • Transport
  • Accommodation
  • Victuals
  • Activities
  • Souvenirs
  • What you will bring with you (e.g. holiday clothes and activities and snacks for your journey)

These things all need to be included in your budget. Don’t worry though as with this article’s help planning your trip will not be a stressful chore that makes you dread going on holiday but will be a fun and exciting activity that will make yearn to go on your perfect trip away.


Getting There

There are many ways to get to Paris. For every mode of transport the best way to get there cheaply is to buy your tickets well in advance as they are at their cheapest then.

When my mum and I went to Paris we only took trains (the Caledonian Sleeper and then the Eurostar) as we decided that we wanted the process of getting to Paris to be an adventure in itself. We love the excitement of trains as they take you through the ever changing landscape towards your destination, allowing the traveller to gradually adapt instead of suffering flight-induced culture shock.


Transport in Paris

In Paris walking is the cheapest way to travel since it’s completely free. The metro is a very cultural mode of transport to take in Paris and you get really good views of Paris when you are travelling. This may be a silly question – but is it not underground?! Not always! I also highly recommend taking the Paris City Tour Bus as it takes you to the major sights in Paris, a travel ‘two-for-one’, culture on the move – the budget-traveller’s dream.


Things to do in Paris

Paris is the fashion capital of the world and the city of lights and of love.  Paris has a variety of things to do to suit all ages and interests. You could go for a romantic walk along the River Seine; go on a River Seine dinner cruise; marvel at Paris’s amazing architecture; go shopping in Paris’s famous shops or visit the wide variety of museums and galleries Paris has to offer, including The Louvre and The Centre Pompidou. There are many cultural and fun things to do in Paris. Remember, when you are on a budget-holiday you need to do a lot of research in advance so that you can keep your costs low.

Ribh and her mum at the River Seine Lock Bridge
Ribh and her mum at the River Seine Lock Bridge

Some budget-activities are not great as budget-businesses won’t have enough money to pay for things that are of excellent quality. At the same time though some budget-activities are excellent, and more cultural, than the more commercialised activities as they are less touristy.


Budget Food

There are lots of different types of places to eat in Paris. You could eat at a museum’s café, on a river Seine dinner cruise, at a traditional Parisian café or restaurant or at a fast-food place or coffee shop (E.g. McDonalds or Starbucks). For our dinner cruise we sailed on the budget busting Bateau le Calife but there are cheaper options. When I was in Paris I ate at all these types of places. Although they were delicious they were quite expensive so if you are going to eat out then you will need to save up a bit more for your trip. Or why not just buy some pain et fromage and have a picnic in a Parisian park or beside the River Seine.


Our Best Bargain

Our best bargain was the Paris City Tour Bus as we got to go where we wanted on it and we also got to learn more about the history of the different places in Paris while we were travelling. I would highly recommend that you use the Paris City Tour Bus as it is fantastic and well worth your money.


What we didn’t get to do but will do next time.

During our trip we didn’t get to go on an Eiffel Tower tour as we forgot to buy tickets for it in advance and didn’t want to spend the little time we had in Paris queuing. Next time I plan to buy tickets in advance so that I can definitely go up it. Although we didn’t get to go up the Eiffel Tower we did get good views of it from different places across Paris. We got spectacular views of it on the Paris City Tour Bus.


My favourite part of the trip

My favourite part of the trip was when we went to a small, cute café that was quite far away from Paris’s city centre. I ordered traditional moules-frites while my mum had the steak-frites.  The food was delicious and the café was très Parisian – its customers were mainly locals, though tourists were very welcome to eat there. In this setting it felt like I was a true Parisian local.  Even better, while I was eating my food the song ‘Super Trooper’ by ABBA (who inspired my Paris visit) was playing!

Here is Ribh eating her moules-frites. C'était délicieux!
Here is Ribh eating her moules-frites. C’était délicieux!

The most amazing and magical experience of my trip was our dinner cruise aboard Bateau le Calife. While the Eiffel Tower flashed and sparkled behind me, the waiters and waitresses brought out my pudding (a heavenly melt-in-the-middle chocolate pudding and the tastiest ice-cream I have ever had). It had a sparkler on it and everyone, including the other passengers, sang ‘Happy Birthday!’ to me (some even sang it in French!). The cruise’s food was delicious. I had scallops and vegetables for my main course and then my extra-special dessert. The cruise overall was a fabulous birthday treat, although it wasn’t budget-friendly so do keep that in mind and look at cheaper options.


What didn’t go well on our trip?

There were two things that I wasn’t keen on. The first thing that wasn’t perfect was the Centre Pompidou. We didn’t really like the style of the paintings on show as they were just too modern. It was almost like the works were unfinished! I didn’t know what to expect but I was a little disappointed by them. The restaurant on the roof sold simple foods at a high cost! Croque Monsieur may sound like a French delicacy but was a cheese and ham toasty for €12!  To me, the outside of the centre is actually more interesting than the inside, and it’s free! I think the Centre Pompidou is too far away, and expensive, to bother with on a short budget holiday.

The second thing that didn’t go well was the Cinéaqua-Aquarium de Paris. On the Aquarium’s website it says: “The restaurant of the Aquarium will offer its visitor a special AND ORIGINAL time in front of the Eiffel Tower.” However this did not happen. For one thing you couldn’t really see the Eiffel Tower from the aquarium as it was so far away and actually underground and the other thing was the restaurant was closed and anyway it only sold things like chicken nuggets. We thought that the restaurant was going to be open and so we didn’t eat before we went. Because we were so hungry we definitely did not enjoy the aquarium as much as we thought we were going to. After the Aquarium we went to the McDonalds nearest our hotel (we still did it culturally though and ordered in French) The Cinéaqua-Aquarium de Paris is definitely not worth your time or money when you are only in Paris for a few days and are on a budget holiday. Actually I would say that it is not worth your time or money at all as it is such a money and time waster. If you like fish, though, then you may like it but it just wasn’t for me.


Budget Accommodation

Accommodation can be a tricky matter as people will want to stay at different places for different reasons. For instance if you are with your friends and want a wild weekend away then you will want to stay in a place which has a lot of night-life but if you are staying with your family and young children or elderly people then you will want the exact opposite. There are lots of different types of accommodation, which all vary in price so you will have to do a lot of research to make sure that you stay at a budget-friendly place that is right for you. Research this by looking at different hotels, their locations, prices and, vitally, customer reviews online.

During our trip my mum and I stayed at the Hotel Saint Pierre which was very comfortable but basic and very traditionally Parisian. The staff were very friendly, helpful and welcoming and the hotel’s lift was amazing, vintage with fancy iron-work doors. The rooms were cosy and perfectly sized. I would definitely recommend staying there as it was also very well situated beside the Sorbonne.



In Paris I bought a lot of souvenirs; too many in fact. I bought: a Parisian make-up bag, a Parisian scarf, a hoodie with Paris written on it, a school bag and lots of pencils from Paris’s museums and galleries, to name a few.

Hoodies with the city’s name on them are the best type of souvenir you can buy as, although they are quite expensive, they are extremely useful since you can wear them all the time and they announce to everyone, even strangers, where you have been and that you are an adventurous and well-travelled traveller! Postcards are small, cheap and personal- the perfect gift for family and friends. It’s even more special when you post them with a stamp from the city!

When you are buying budget-holiday souvenirs you shouldn’t buy too many and ones that are expensive. Also don’t buy gifts for people who aren’t immediate friends or family. When buying souvenirs remember that you don’t need them, you just want them! You can tell people about your travels through stories and photos. These are free but souvenirs can burst your budget big time.


Parisian Conclusion

I highly recommend Paris as a holiday destination. It is quite an expensive place though so to go there on a budget holiday is a challenge. Nevertheless it is still worth a visit since it is such a romantic, magical and iconic city.

During this year’s summer holidays I am going back to Paris with my mum and siblings. I’m looking forward to busting our budget this time round!

À bientôt!


{ Ribh } Bio

Ribh O'Neill writes a mixture of things (including zine magazines, fanfiction stories, fiction stories that vary in length and are sometimes short stories and sometimes books and she also writes travel pieces). Ribh has had one of her fanfiction stories, which was about Cathy Cassidy's character Summer, published online on the Cathy Cassidy Dreamcatcher blog. She was chosen to be a participant of the Scottish Book Trust's, 'What's Your Story?', youth development programme in 2015-16. Ribh usually gets inspired by animals and the outdoors (particularly the beach).